Hang with me for a minute or two as I introduce you to a really important word that gets me super excited...even though the word is pretty old, kinda cumbersome, and often neglected.
The word? Catechesis (pronounced “kat ə 'kēsis”).
Still hangin' with me? Good.
When I use the word "catechesis" with most people, I've come to expect one of two common reactions. For some, their defenses go up - they (wrongly) assume this word applies only to some denomination or branch of Christianity they don't adhere to - even if they may not understand what the word really means. For others, when they hear the word "catechesis" their mind disengages. After all, catechesis is a church-ey, unfamiliar, four syllable word. Since they don't have a framework for understanding the term, their mind jumps to something else.
But what if catechesis is worthwhile for anybody following - or considering following - Jesus Christ? I believe it can be. In this post I'll try to get us on the same page with how to think about catechesis, and in a few days I'll get more specific with some of the benefits catechesis offers.
Toward a common understanding of catechesis
Here's my (kind of?) simple and (somewhat) broad definition of catechesis: Intentional-teaching-in-foundational-areas-for-formation. Let me break that down a bit:
So must catechesis be limited to a series of questions and responses, as it is in some traditions? Not necessarily. (Though there's nothing wrong with the Q&A format.)
Can catechesis only be reproduced with rows of chairs facing forward in a lecture hall? No; this sort of training or equipping can take place in a variety of environments or settings. In fact, historically catechesis has had a relational component that is too often neglected when the setting becomes too lecture-based. (Just keep in mind there's nothing inherently wrong with a classroom setting, either.)
Understood in this way, it's clear that the idea of catechesis (even if you don't use that word) can't be neglected. The Bible certainly doesn’t neglect the idea – teaching is a key ingredient of formation in both Old and New Testaments. And church history emphasized this priority as well. There is evidence from the earliest days of the fledgling church that a formal program of instruction, training, or catechesis was in place.
So let's get intentional. About teaching. In foundational areas. For Christlike formation.
A FEW HELPFUL RESOURCES ON CATECHESIS
I've got a bunch of resources that have contributed to my thinking on catechesis as understood in this post. (And many of these resources will advance the discussion beyond what I've touched on here.) Here are three resources I'd point you toward first:
What's been your experience with catechesis? Assuming the definition I've put forward here, why is catechesis important?
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.